Strive for Scouting success using Journey to Excellence

JourneytoExcellence

Are you offering the best possible Scouting experience for your Scouts? With Journey to Excellence, you’ll know for sure.

A few years back, Neil Lupton explained Journey to Excellence to a group of fellow Scouting volunteers. There was only one objection.

One volunteer — we’ll call him Chad — listened as Lupton explained how JTE is a balanced scorecard for measuring Scouting success. He heard how units score points in four categories: planning and budget, membership, program and volunteer leadership. He learned how it helps good units become great as they advance from bronze to silver to gold.

But Chad had a problem. A good Scouting experience, he argued, can’t be assigned a point value.

“Suppose you’ve got a really, really good unit that doesn’t score well on the JTE criteria,” Chad told Lupton. “What then?”

Lupton, a Silver Buffalo Award recipient, 60-year Scouting veteran and the chairman of the national Journey to Excellence committee, was ready for Chad’s question.

“Let me make sure I understand,” Lupton said. “You’re not growing in membership. You’re not advancing. You’re not camping. You’re not doing service. You don’t have youth leadership. You don’t have trained leaders. What makes you think you’re good?”

Lupton’s response wasn’t discourteous. He was making a point: “A really, really good unit” will score well on JTE — even if they’ve never heard of it.

Robert Baden-Powell had never heard of JTE when he created Scouting. Norman Rockwell never included a JTE scorecard in his paintings.

But the timeless Scouting values those men promoted are embedded deep within the 5-year-old JTE system.

JTE isn’t about shoehorning your Scout unit into an arbitrary scoring system, Lupton says. It’s about highlighting “the things the unit is supposed to be doing anyway.”

JTE: The Basics
Jeff Rand is Lupton’s professional counterpart on the Journey to Excellence committee. He says JTE helps a unit leader answer the question: Are you and your Scouts getting the most out of Scouting?

You answer that question by keeping score. You get points in a number of categories and, at the end of the year, you add up your score from each category. If the total is high enough, you earn bronze, silver or gold.

Each category is important, but a poor performance in one or two won’t doom your unit.

“There’s no one criterion like membership or advancement that’s overriding,” Rand says. “A strong unit is doing lots of good things.”

You fill out your scorecard at the end of the calendar year and hand it in according to your district or council’s instructions.

New scorecards come out every year. The ones for 2016, which apply to the 2016 calendar year, were released in early 2015 so units could start planning early.

Proactive, Not Reactive
Planning ahead is what makes JTE so powerful.

Your JTE score isn’t hidden inside a box to be opened on New Year’s Eve. It’s right in front of you. At the beginning of the year, you see exactly how you’ll be scored and can plan accordingly. At regular intervals throughout the year, you track your progress. At year’s end? No surprises.

“It’s really most beneficial prospectively — not retrospectively,” Lupton says. “Look at the JTE scorecard and say, ‘This is my road map.’”

Soon, you’ll monitor JTE progress from your smartphone or tablet. With Scoutbook, the BSA’s revolutionary Web app for tracking Scouting, you’ll glance at your JTE progress while in line at the grocery store.

Get on the Scoreboard
Becoming a gold JTE unit isn’t easy. And you probably won’t achieve gold in your first few years. Some might see that as a failure. Not Lupton.

“Gold is outstanding, and it’s hard to meet that standard,” he says. “Silver is excellent, and bronze is perfectly satisfactory.”

A Boy Scout who doesn’t achieve Eagle still benefits from the program. Similarly, a unit that doesn’t achieve JTE gold status still offers a great life-changing program for youth. What’s important is that you’re equipped with the facts to make any necessary improvements.

“The key thing is to be on the scoreboard,” Lupton says.

Forward Momentum
Units that use JTE see continuous improvement. Same goes for the JTE system itself.

Lupton, Rand and the JTE team gather feedback from fellow volunteers, focus groups, blog comments and emails sent to jte@scouting.org. They consider all ideas before updating the scorecards every year.

In a way, JTE scorecards are kind of like the iPhone. A new one comes out every year with some key improvements, but the best parts stay the same. Each year, it gets a little closer to perfection.

“What makes a good unit? That doesn’t change much,” Lupton says. “The numbers may change a little, but the basics don’t change.”


Quality Districts and Councils
Units aren’t the only ones keeping score with JTE. Districts and councils have their own scorecards for tracking success. Their JTE score is directly related to those of their units.

“It is the job of the district and the council to help the units do as well as possible,” Lupton says.

Don’t get discouraged if your score is low. Help is available from your unit commissioner or a district or council professional.


The Quality Unit Award
Been involved in Scouting for five years or more? Then you remember the Quality Unit Award, which JTE replaces. With the Quality Unit Award, Lupton says, units had little guidance.

“You decided what your criteria were, and you decided if you met them,” he says. “It was pass/fail. You were either a Quality Unit … or you weren’t.”

Things are better with JTE, which empowers units with a specific blueprint for planning their Scouting year. You know what you do well, what you need to improve and by how much. With JTE, you see the finish line at the start of the race.


Keeping Score
Visit scouting.org/jte to view and complete a JTE scorecard for your pack, troop, crew, ship, team, post, district or council.

 

5 Comments

  1. This article could not be more correct or timely. This Feb 27, 2016, the National Capital Area Council is conducting their University of Scouting. One of the electives being offered is titled, ‘Journey to Excellence as a Planning and Programming Guide’. Neil L. has succinctly stated the entire promise of using Journey to Excellence, in this manner, as one way of making a good unit a better unit. BSA has also captured the concept in one simple statement, ‘We start from where we are and we try to get better.’ Bryan, keep up the good work!!!

  2. An excellent introductory article on the BSA’s Journey to Excellence measurement system. This is a solid and well thought out Total Quality based system for creating Unit, District and Council Alignment and Focus. What should we work on? What should we do? How are we doing? Are all questions answered by application of the appropriate JTE Scorecard.

    I have conducted a session on how to use unit JTE scorecards at the Golden Empire Council University of Scouting the past 2 years and will do so again this month. It is good to see that other councils are also targeting training on how to use JTE. Guidebooks for four program areas, Pack, Troops, Team and Crews have been developed and updated. These explain the “How to Use” aspect of JTE Unit Scorecards, mainly as a planning, guiding, tracking and reporting tool. These will again be presented at the upcoming Golden Empire JTE UoS session. Those quidebooks have been uploaded to the National Best Practices Website page and are also available to download from the Golden Empire Council Website. Please feel free to use them.

    JTE is a vital tool to help BSA units, districts and councils move ever forward. JTE is being integrated into the thinking and actions of most areas of the organization. Specifically I point to the current requirements for the Scouter’s Training Award and the Scouter’s Key. Meeting a unit JTE objective for two years is a central criteria for the Scouter’s Training Award and is a major point of emphasis in the above mentioned guidebooks. The intent is to get more adult scouters involved in the operation of their scout son’s and daughter’s units, increase their commitment to assisting the unit, have recognition for those adults and as a result the unit is stronger and Scouting is better served in the community.

    The other point about the guidebooks is the inclusion of the JTE Objective spreadsheets. These are located on the JTE Resources Website and available to download. These spreadsheets match the objectives as shown on the scorecards. During the unit’s annual planning session the spreadsheet can be used as a tool to indicate “What” the unit can and should do for each objective. Sign up a parent to oversee that objective. The spreadsheet will calculate and indicate the JTE measure for each objective based on what the plan is developed to deliver. You want to be a Gold unit?, make a plan via the spreadsheet that shows Gold at year end, but do it during the planning session. Unit committee meetings then review progress of planned activities at committee meetings as shown by updating the spreadsheet to show current activities and performance. Parents who deliver on their assignments and commitments (part of the Alignment and Focus mentioned above) then get recognized for their work with knowing they helped the unit deliver a strong Scouting program plus get a portion of the Scouter’s Training Award signed off.

    I look forward to the continued expansion of JTE into more areas of Scouting and really look forward to the stronger organization that will bring.

  3. Is there any hard evidence that unit JTE really improves the quality of
    Scouting in units? By hard evidence, I mean something like tracking unit JTE scores over several years and comparing that performance to membership growth, or membership retention over the same period of time? My experience in my local district is that the units who turn in the JTE paperwork are already the strong units. The weak units don’t bother. So, unit quality is driving JTE participation, not the reverse.

    • Dan,
      a few comments and clarifications on JTE:

      One, JTE participation is not voluntary, as was the ‘old’ Quality Units program. So those weak units need to get into the program.

      Two, the new Commissioner tools magnifies the look into all units good and bad with the required assessments that Commissioners are now required to do. The tool that Commissioners use to evaluate units and have conferences with unit Key 3s, looks a lot like the Unit JTE evaluation form??!! Additionally, these Commissioner visits are tracked as part of District and Council JTE performance!!??

      Three, to answer your question the program is barely five (5) years old and there is not a lot of data out there.

      However, as a District Commissioner, I was able to identify a trend in Cub Scout units when I examined Cub Scout Camping by Packs. I was able to see that good Cub Scout units were not meeting the standards for summer camping. Further analysis showed that Packs where participating in District or Council Day Camps and Webelos were attending long term summer camps, but Cubs, due to family vacations, sports and sickness, were not attending any Camp during the summer. Those numbers were high enough to prevent Packs from reaching Gold for JTE and District from reaching even Bronze for JTE. The next Spring Unit Commissioners and the Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner began stressing to Packs the need to participate in both District and Council Day Camps, STEM camps and other qualifying camping experiences for Cubs. Our numbers improved across the board and most importantly more Cubs were able to experience the ‘Out’ in Scouting.

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